You could argue the same for the team as a whole. The times the car looks strong, it’s nearly on the pace of a Ferrari or Mercedes, but the results haven’t translated. That’s perhaps where Rossi was at his most harsh, not acknowledging the potential in the machinery, but then it could also be the catalyst for his frustration that it has gone unfulfilled.
Last year, Alpine’s development rate kept it clear of McLaren and it was mainly reliability that prevented that team from pulling away comfortably in the fight for fourth overall. With a car that is more competitive out of the box, it has so far missed the chance to put a healthy gap between itself and its main midfield rival, so either needs to do so quickly or match that improvement curve with the car performance.
Both would obviously be preferable, especially if it moved Alpine into the fight with some of the teams ahead of it on more occasions. Because otherwise its points return is going to be limited, and even the slightest mistakes in modern F1 are being heavily punished, as has been clear in the first five rounds.
If Alpine’s car is fifth quickest and everyone performs to their respective maximums, then ninth and tenth – three points – is all that’s on offer. Failing to produce that makes it hard to score points, especially when pretty much every other team on the grid can be a threat on a day one gets it all together perfectly.
And that’s why all of the above items can have such a major impact, even if they seem slight. Failure doesn’t have to be judged on massive mistakes anymore, but small ones that will prove costly.
One area where Szafnauer’s influence was felt last season was in the way he facilitated an efficient and regular upgrade schedule, something that the team needs to keep delivering on this year. If Rossi’s frustration was at the first five races then one remedy will be consistently adding performance, with more new parts planned for Imola – if the weather allows – after the recent update in Azerbaijan.
Mercedes and Ferrari are currently tantalisingly within reach on certain circuits, but have yet to be beaten. And according to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, both underdelivered this season rather than his own team making major steps forward. So if the Mercedes update which was due in Imola – or more significant Ferrari parts in Spain – start to rectify that deficit, it’s going to be tough for Alpine to keep up without its own development being more effective.